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This article deals with
Weight loss, fitness, diet
Copyright 2006 Dan Curtis, M.D.
There is no magic formula to losing weight. But there is one thing that comes as close to it as you will ever get: protein. If there is one “magic bullet” to weight loss, protein is it.
Protein was the original diet food. Remember the old fashioned diners years ago? They had the diet plate, and it was a hamburger patty and a salad. It wasn’t the salad that was the diet part, it was the hamburger.
To know why protein works for weight loss, you have to understand a little bit about it. Protein is made up of small building blocks called amino acids.
When your body takes in protein it breaks it down to these amino acids, which then go through your blood to all parts of your body. Every cell needs amino acids.
Then when the amino acids get to the cells they are put back together. The body uses them to make muscle, and there is muscle everywhere. It is in your arms and legs and abdominal muscles.
When these muscles build up they burn up a lot of calories. Muscles burn calories, and this helps you lose weight.
There is also muscle in your heart and in your arteries. Extra protein makes these muscles strong so you won’t have a heart attack or a stroke.
Protein is also used to make antibodies to fight off infections and keep you well. So you need protein to have a body that is lean and healthy and strong. Bodies that are lean and healthy and strong are beautiful.
But the benefits of protein even go beyond that. You might wonder what happens if you overeat on protein. Won’t that just get turned into fat too? Not likely.
It is very hard for your body to make fat from protein. For one thing, it takes energy to break protein down to amino acids and then make these amino acids into fat. And this burns up calories.
But there is another benefit to protein when you are trying to take weight off. This is the effect of protein on your metabolism.
When you have a fast metabolism your body burns calories quickly. When you have a slow metabolism your body burns up calories slowly and you tend to gain weight easily.
There is an effect of protein on your metabolism that scientists have known about for a long time. It is called the “specific dynamic action” of protein. What does that mean?
Dynamic comes from a Greek word that means powerful. If something is dynamic it has energy and it moves; it has action. Protein is dynamic in the body. It causes the body to speed up.
When you eat protein your metabolism speeds up for a while. Your body makes more heat. It burns more calories.
It doesn’t do that with fat and it doesn’t do that with carbohydrates. Just protein. It is “specific” for protein. So protein has a specific dynamic action on your body, and it speeds up your metabolism.
Your body knows what you are putting into it. It knows that proteins are used for building strong bones and muscles and nerves.
When you take in protein it knows it is time to get busy, to build, and to make your body strong. It knows that you are giving it the fuel it needs and the building blocks it needs, so it goes into action.
This is the specific dynamic action of protein, and it happens whenever you eat protein. When you eat protein your metabolism speeds up and you burn more calories.
The protein should be lean and it doesn’t need to be much. A couple of ounces are more than enough. It is best to take in some protein every few hours.
This is the key to your weight loss success. Do this and you will take a giant step on your road to permanent weight loss.